How to Fish From a Kayak: Becoming A Kayak Fisherman

Many people probably wonder why someone would choose to fish from a kayak instead of fishing from a motorboat and the answer to that question is actually manyfold. However, three definitive answers to that question are expense, stealth, and challenge.

A fishing kayak and the accompanying gear is far less expensive to purchase than a motorboat, is easier to transport, and requires far less maintenance. Also, a kayak provides the angler with a far more stealthy approach to wary schools of fish than even a trolling motor does.

Catching and landing large freshwater and saltwater fish species is a far more personal and intimate challenge when the angler is sitting in a kayak and thus, kayak fishing is more challenging.

How do you get into this exciting new sport you might ask?

Well, there actually 5 easy steps to follow that will have you on the water and pursuing your favorite fish species in no time at all.

Step 1: What Type of Kayaking Fishing Do You Want To Pursue?

Before you can choose the most appropriate fishing kayak for your particular needs, you will first need to determine what type of kayak fishing you intend to pursue because all fishing kayaks are not created equal.

Lifetime Tamarack

lifetime tamarack


  • Made of High density Polyethylene
  • Multiple footrest positions
  • Two 6" Storage Compartments

Vibe Sea Ghost 110

sea ghost


  • One of the best fishing kayaks money can buy
  • Very comfortable seat included
  • Included are 2 flush-mount rod holders & 4 gear tracks for custom rigging

Intex Excursion Pro

Intex Excursion Pro


  • Inflatable and easy to transport
  • Made of lightweight and highly resistant PVC
  • Includes 2 skews, 2 footrests, 2 fishing rod holders, 2 adjustable bucket seats, 2 paddles and pump

You should be aware that kayak fishing is divided into two different and distinct categories which consist of:

  1. Fishing in freshwater – fishing in still water or moving water
  2. Fishing in saltwater – inshore or offshore fishing

It is also important to understand that each type of kayak fishing presents the angler with different paddling conditions and thus, also requires different types of kayaks to meet the needs of those particular conditions.

Nothing is more satisfying than catching fish from my kayak

Step 2: Sit-on-top vs. Sit-inside Kayaks

The next question that you need to answer is what type of kayak is best suited for the type of fishing that you will be doing so that you can choose the the best fishing kayak for your needs.

Sit-on-top kayaks or Sit-inside Fishing kayaks?

The main difference between a sit-on-top kayak and a sit-inside kayak is that a sit-on-top kayak lacks an enclosed cockpit. Also, most sit-on-top kayaks are made from rotationally-molded polyethylene plastic and thus they are extremely tough but, this type of construction also makes them comparatively heavy.

Ocean Kayak Malibu

ocean kayak malibu


  • rigid kayak
  • Easy to carry
  • Comfortable seat

Emotion Spitfire

sit on


  • Comfortable built in seat
  • Weigth: 45 lbs
  • Carries up to 350 lb

Perception Sound 10.5

Perception Sound 105


  • Length: 9'6" - weight: 38lbs
  • Ideal fishing/recreational kayak
  • Tracks well - very stable

However, due to their wide open cockpits and extreme initial stability, sit-on-top kayaks are the most popular type of fishing kayak available. But, because they have poor secondary stability and generally lack either a skeg or a rudder to aid them in maintaining course, they are best reserved for relatively calm days on calm waters since they do not handle particularly well in high winds, large waves, or swift currents.

Recreational Kayaks

On the other hand, recreational kayaks differ from sit-on-top kayaks in that they have large, enclosed, cockpits. Also, like sit-on-top kayaks, most recreational kayaks are made from rotationally-molded polyethylene plastic and thus, they too are very tough but, are also comparatively heavy.

However, when properly outfitted, recreational kayaks do make excellent fishing kayaks because they have a high degree of initial stability and their extra-large cockpits make them easy to enter and exit.

In addition, they generally have more efficient hull designs than sit-on-top kayaks and thus, they are a good choice for close range fishing expeditions on sill water or protected inshore waters and they are an excellent choice for fishing on moving water.

Step 3: Narrow or Wide Fishing Kayaks

Primary stability is a measure of how stable a kayak feels when sitting upright on its keel. Therefore wide kayaks have a high degree of primary stability and narrow kayaks have a low degree of primary stability. Also, as a general rule, soft-chined kayaks have a high degree of primary stability and hard-chined kayaks have a low degree of primary stability.

Secondary stability on the other hand, is a measure of how stable a kayak feels when it’s leaned onto its side. Therefore narrow kayaks have a high degree of secondary stability and wide kayaks have a low degree of secondary stability. Also, as a general rule, soft chined kayaks have a lower degree of secondary stability while hard chined kayaks have a higher degree of secondary stability.

Step 4: Choose Kayak Specific Fishing Gear

Choosing the right fishing gear is another important step to becoming a kayak fisherman.

For instance, while all paddlers should wear a Personal Flotation Device (PFD) whenever they are on the water, kayak fisherman can especially benefit from a fishing specific PFD of which there are several models on the market today. Carrying a kayaking knife can also come handy.

In addition, several kayak paddle manufactures produce fishing specific kayak paddles which can make fishing from your kayak easier and more fun. Plus, numerous fishing rod manufacturers have recognized the popularity of kayak fishing and thus, many of them are now offering kayak specific fishing rods.

Step 5: Outfit your kayak for fishing.

Of course, in addition to kayak specific fishing gear, properly outfitting your kayak for fishing is the next step.

Thus, while many kayak manufacturers offer fishing specific kayak which come already outfitted for fishing, some kayak fishermen prefer to customize their fishing kayak themselves.

Seats – the seat on a sit-on-top kayak is often little more than a mildly ergonomic molded depression for the paddler’s posterior and there is often no integral back rest. Therefore, there are numerous different types of sit-on-top kayak seats on the market today available from numerous different manufacturers with many different features. In addition, the seat in many recreational kayaks is not much better and thus, there is also a wide choice of aftermarket back bands, back rests, and seat pads that will make your sit-inside kayak’s cockpit more comfortable as well.

Paddle park – a paddle park is a plastic clip that mounts to the deck or gunwale of your kayak and allows you to clip your paddle into it where it is securely held out of the way while you fish but is immediately handy if you need it. 

Rod holder – a kayak rod holder is designed to provide you with a handy place to put your rod while you change bait, change lures, or handle a fish. Therefore, they are generally placed at arm’s length in front of the paddler and models are available to hold bait casting, spinning, and fly rods and reels.

Rod rack – a rod rack enables you to conveniently carry more than one rod at a time and they are available in either vertical or horizontal models.

Anchor trolley – an anchor trolley is a long loop of cord or rope that is run through either pad eyes or small pulleys at both ends of the kayak and which extends the full length of the kayak on either side and which has a small loop tied in the center on either side. To make use of an anchor trolley, a kayak anchor is deployed over the side and lowered until it reaches the bottom. Then, the anchor line is secured to the small loop in the center of the trolley line. This allows the paddler to position the small loop at either the bow or the stern of the kayak to hold the kayak in the correct place and position for fishing.

Anchor – a kayak does not require a very heavy anchor to hold it in place and thus, there are manufacturers who make kayak specific, collapsible, anchors. 

Drogue – a drogue (aka a sea anchor) works similar to a standard anchor in that it too can be deployed from an anchor trolley. However, rather than being designed to hold the kayak in one place, a drogue is designed to slow a kayak’s drift by providing drag.

Casting net – if you like to fish with live bait, then a casting net can be a valuable money saver because a kayak can allow you to stealthily approach wary schools of bait fish and capture them. In addition, if you happen to encounter a school of shrimp while fishing, you can capture them for a tasty addition to your catch of the day. 

GPS – a marine Global Positioning Satellite receiver is an extremely valuable tool to have along when kayak fishing because, not only does it keep track of your present position, it also enables you to record the exact location of any hot spots you might encounter so that you can easily find them again later.

Sonar – sonar units (aka fish finders) are also valuable tools for kayak fishing because they present the paddler with a picture of the bottom topography and thus make it easier to find the type of structure that each fish species prefers.

Helpful Kayak Fishing Tips For Beginners

Take a paddling class – Taking one or more classes to learn proper paddling technique, kayak handling, and how to deal with difficult situations can have a drastic impact on your confidence as a paddler which, in turn, allows you relax and enjoy your adventure.

Practice rolling and self rescue techniques – Taking a self-rescue class along with other paddlers will provide you invaluable experience and will prove to you that you are able to safely escape the cockpit and then reenter it in the event of a capsize. In addition, learning one or more rolling techniques often eliminates the need for a wet exit and reentry after a capsize and thus, learning to roll in addition to learning self-rescue techniques will provide the paddler with the knowledge they need to face most any emergency paddling situation and practicing them until they are perfected will provide the needed skills.

Carry essential kayak safety gear – Carrying essential kayak safety gear with you when fishing will prepare you for any paddling emergencies that may arise.

Hire a kayak fishing guide for your first serious fishing trip – Hiring an experienced, local, kayak fishing guide for your first serious kayak fishing trip is an excellent way to christen your entry into the sport of kayak fishing and what you learn from a good guide in a single day can save you month’s worth of time and expense learning the sport on your own.

Use a kayak anchor to hold yourself in a particular position – A kayak floating idly on the water is highly susceptible to the vagaries of the wind. However, you can use a kayak anchor attached to an anchor trolley to position your kayak exactly where and how you want it in order to hold yourself in the prime position for fishing.

Use a drogue to slow your drift through a productive area – there are times when drift-fishing is a more productive method than anchor-fishing. However, because a kayak is a relatively lightweight craft, it often drifts much faster than the paddler would like. Therefore, by deploying a drogue (aka sea anchor), either behind or in front of the kayak on an anchor trolley, the fisherman can drastically slow the kayak’s drift near schools of feeding fish or through productive areas. 

Final Thoughts

Thus, while becoming a kayak fisherman is neither difficult nor terribly expensive, following the five steps listed above will make if far more likely that you will enjoy your new sport. In fact, choosing the right kayak is the single most important choice you will need to make because it is the one that will most drastically affect your enjoyment of your time on the water.

In addition, regardless of whether you choose a kayak that is already outfitted by the manufacturer or choose to modify your kayak yourself, proper outfitting can make the difference between a highly successful fishing trip and a highly stressful one. Thus, adding accessories such as a paddle park, a rod holder or two, and an anchor trolley are essential to proper outfitting.

Last, you would be wise to pay special attention to the helpful kayak fishing tips listed above. For instance, if you are a novice paddler, then taking a basic kayaking course will drastically enhance your ability to control your kayak while learning self-rescue techniques will drastically increase your confidence level.

 So, if you are planning on becoming a kayak fisherman then following the 5 steps listed above will set you on the right path.

Leave a Comment